I've rarely found the time to read books unrelated to my work in the last couple of years, so when I start one, it is always with the trepidation thatI've rarely found the time to read books unrelated to my work in the last couple of years, so when I start one, it is always with the trepidation that it, again, will remain unread. The pull needs to be extremely strong for me to keep with it and come out the other side, the one waiting after the last page has been read.
I had no such trepidation with Alexander's book because it had me at the first sentence. Having tried (and as of yet, still failed) to finish Didion's Year of Magical Thinking which deals with much the same topic, I find it easy to see why it was so. There is, understandably, a superb poetic quality to Alexander's writing which moved me and egged me on - not to see "what happens next" because this is not a book read for its plot twists, but in deed, to read the beautiful new sentences she would weave. Reading for reading's sake, I guess you could call it, and it was worth every minute I spent with it. The ruminations on African and African-American culture were also an aspect I savored, not being as knowledgeable on the subject, but having a personal understanding of the experiences of refugees and immigrants. It was a puzzling outcome, finding some of my own history related in Ficre's story, which by all accounts was so far removed: it really brought the point across, of the universals of our uniqueness, of a very human reaction to what home is, what family is, what love is (supposed to be). ...more
I put this book on my to-read list a couple of years ago when I happened upon one of Frey's quotes whilst swimming in the teenage angst lagoons of theI put this book on my to-read list a couple of years ago when I happened upon one of Frey's quotes whilst swimming in the teenage angst lagoons of the Internet. Since I don't live in the US, or follow Oprah, I had no idea about the whole controversy that surrounded it until I finally decided to read it now and skimmed over a couple reviews. Boy, was that a mistake or what. Needless to say, although I decided to read the book regardless of Frey's questionable motives in marketing it as an autobiography, my mind wasn't exactly the definition of open.
This was the progression of my feelings whilst reading the book. First 30 or so pages, I'm surprised at how well written it is. Frey has great rhythm, I've seen someone mention this and it's true. I wasn't expecting such free flowing / stream of consciousness kind of style, and I love it. Reminded me a bit of Kerouac. Not only because of the drugs. Very optimistic about it. Around the time he has the root canal surgery I'm getting a bit skeptical, as well as mortified. (I had root canals done with ample anesthesia and pain medication, just thinking about this experience makes me uncomfortable. Reading about *his* was downright nightmarish.) So at this point, I decide I want to see just how much of the supposed memoir is fiction. For one, so I can sleep at night and go to the dentist's again, and two, well, curiosity killed the cat. Meow.
Once I read the whole report on TSG, I was appalled. Embellishments are one thing, making yourself into a Courtney Love type when you're actually, well, Taylor Swift (I don't know anyone who admitted to using only a little drugs, so this analogy might be flawed) – is disrespectful and just an all-around douche-bag move. I have a soft spot in my heart for addicts, they're one of the reasons I chose the profession I did. When you see people whose lives have truly been destroyed by alcohol or drugs, and then realize that this guy made a fortune exploiting the empathy that is rarely extended to addicts in real life, it makes you want to puke. Hard, the way he described in his book. Also, incidentally, it made me think about Frey's condescending description of the 12-step convert who was telling his story at one of the lectures, when his reason for joining was smoking a bit of „grass“ and drinking some „brew“ in college. The way Frey reflected on this seemed especially hypocritical, when you take into account that he did much the same thing and on an exponentially larger scale. So I spent the next 50-60 pages wanting to smack him in the face and debating with myself whether I even wanted to stick with it. I pushed my feelings about the author waaaay down and I did.
The thing is, somewhere around the middle when my initial reaction about everything else simmered down, I again realized that the book is, despite everything, an effing quality piece of writing. More to the point, this story is worth telling, be it fictional or real. So I wasn't disappointed. I grew to care about the characters, there was warmth and friendship and hope. The style was interesting, it was a page turner – which is quite unusual for a book dealing in such a heavy subject, and one you basically know the end to. I didn't much like the romance part of it, I think the same impact could've been achieved without it, with more focus on the other characters and James' relationship with Leonard.
All in all, this experience has taught me once again not to read too much about the author or the book before finishing it myself, because it makes it almost impossible to form your own, fresh opinion on something once you've read SO MANY other people's thoughts (and judgements) beforehand. After all, many authors have been truly despicable individuals but this should in no way diminish the way we value or rate their contributions to literature (or music or art, insert any-which-thing here). ...more
I was trying to jot down the things that bothered me about this book, and they were many. Here are some main points... (VAGUE SPOILERS AHEAD, BEWARE)
SI was trying to jot down the things that bothered me about this book, and they were many. Here are some main points... (VAGUE SPOILERS AHEAD, BEWARE)
So, about the characters...
This time, it wasn't Tris' character that was massacred. She was only annoyingly bossy and *always right* for most of the book, but this is something I've learned to forgive YA novels with female protagonists, because most of them gradually evolve into these kinds of kick-ass, larger-than-life goddesses. Even if I hadn't read all the spoilers, I'd have had no difficulty guessing what she'd do in the end once the whole plot with Caleb was introduced. Which is lame, but I have to admit that the end was actually one of the parts I enjoyed most about the book. It was a bit sappy at times, but I did feel a strange catching in my throat, so there.
What I absolutely hated about this was Tobias. Why, why, why did Roth have to make him into the suffering self-effacing depressed riddled-with-issues I'm-not-good-enough male character that we meet here? In Divergent, and parts of Insurgent, he was SUCH a great character - stable, mysterious and with hints of darkness and issues, but not all of these. I mean, mommy issues, daddy issues, existential crises, I'm surprised he didn't end up with Matthew at the psychiatry unit in the end of the book. Only as a patient. Because, with all the angst the book showered upon him, and then THAT END, a person who was truly as troubled would surely have snapped. But then he didn't. I don't know, I guess why I was so disappointed with these "insights" was that I found his respect for Tris and support to be refreshing, also - his striving to be better, to be more of everything, it was charming and it made him seem reliable and strong. Like a real person, a good one. Here, he was simply a character from a YA novel and it showed, and I hated it.
Another bone I have to pick concerning his POV chapters was that they didn't even feel like his POV chapters. At first not at all, later I guess the story diverged enough for me to be able to tell the difference, but his voice and Tris' were basically the same in the beginning and it was confusing. No, frustrating.
About the plot...
I kind of had the feeling this was going to go Truman Show on me, so though I wasn't surprised, it still felt ridiculous once it happened and the story started unraveling. The eye roll was used many-a-time (sorry, dear laptop - it wasn't you) when I got to the parts about the "genetically pure" and "genetically damaged" - GP's and GD's... really? I mean, seriously? The factions (or should I say.. behavioral elements or whatever was used to sound scientific - which wasn't even a fitting description, but FINE, I'm supposing the genetics parts were even worse, so lucky for me I'm only a meager psychologist and not a biologist who had to see their theories skewed and misunderstood, but I digress), well, these I could've swallowed to an extent, even though they didn't make *that* much sense, the premise was interesting. But then the twist was simply awful. I hated the very poorly explained transition into the general chaos and mayhem, I hated that we didn't get to know anything about the general government - which pretty much made the whole grand revolution story seem kind of not-as-grand.
By the end of the book, when I thought it through, I wasn't convinced their fighting and CONSTANT (self-)sacrificing had really achieved anything, in the long run. The premise that changing the memories of the staff of one institute in a whole country (/the world? did this happen anywhere else? I don't know.) would somehow be able to bring about a 180 of deeply rooted prejudice and misconceptions requires more than a little suspension of logic and knowledge about how society operates.
I know this seems rant-y and mostly negative, but I got really into the first book and expected so much more. The fact that I read through it, though, goes to Roth's credit. She can make even a hot mess such as this suspenseful and well, interesting. I cared about the characters (the rare glimpses of those I fell in love with in Divergent), which ultimately made me devour this and I'm not sorry for having done so. I'm just sorry to have to part with them on such a sour note....more
- Didn't like this as much as the first one. It was terribly bleak and depressing, and nothing much happened until the end - well,A few quick notes...
- Didn't like this as much as the first one. It was terribly bleak and depressing, and nothing much happened until the end - well, nothing vital to the story that is. - Tris became whiny. I understand she was suffering from something or other like PTSD and had every right to be severely traumatized, but it bothered me. Some of her behavior was completely out of character - by this, I don't mean only the incredibly stupid decisions she made along the way and her messianic complex. Although these were extremely irritating as well. - I still like Four/Tobias. He seems to be the only character in the book who remained true to himself and used more than half a brain. - I liked Lynn and most of the other "supporting" characters, sometimes I wished the story had concentrated more on them than Tris' endless guilt tripping and hand wiping on any surface imaginable (I got it, she does it, it's her thing. Let's not mention it in every chapter.)
Even though it would appear I didn't like the book, this is actually me being invested in the story and the characters. My main beef with it was that I really liked Tris in the first book and I'm glad we got to see a glimpse of her old self near the end, even though... you know... really bad decisions, nevermind the fact that she turned out to be right.
So, I'm very interested to see where all of this leads in the end. It's pretty addictive. Even though it's more of a 3.5 than 4 really, I'm giving it a pass because it was still, you know, a better love story than Twilight. ...more
I got through this really quickly. The writing was simple, not in a way to be lacking, but I think it suited the themes and the protagonist's voice reI got through this really quickly. The writing was simple, not in a way to be lacking, but I think it suited the themes and the protagonist's voice really well.
The thing I really liked about it is that, unlike other female heroines from the genre, I found Tris not to be annoying at all, which was kind of a surprise. I could understand her actions and train of thought, which was refreshing for me. Even though I loved the Hunger Games series, I found it very difficult to relate to Katniss, for example, even though she wasn't as whiny and co-dependent as some other female characters from the genre. Tris was the perfect balance, to me at least, so I didn't have to cringe at her inner monologues.
Four/Tobias was very likeable as well, he seemed more real than your run of the mill love interest in these kinds of stories. He also seemed lik Tris' equal more than her protector, and wasn't afraid to show some vulnerability, a thing I also greatly appreciated in this.
Actually, all of the characters were very well written - they weren't black and white, and even though (naturally) the supporting ones weren't as fleshed out as I'd want them to be, I found myself guessing at their motives and wondering about what was really guiding their actions, a sign that Roth is heading in the right direction. I can't wait to see where she took them in the next books, I can already see this is going to be a binge-reading experience.
The 4-star rating is mainly because of the simplicity of the writing. It felt very safe, and even though it suits the premise and Tris' character, I did wish at times for her to maybe get into the philosophy of the factions a bit more and explore the ethical side of the characters' choices and go deeper into the roots of their actions....more
Alright, so I'm not really sure how to review this. Do I focus on the writing and style, which were right up my alley and I consider Burroughs a greatAlright, so I'm not really sure how to review this. Do I focus on the writing and style, which were right up my alley and I consider Burroughs a great writer, or do I comment on his advice and the content of the book?
Well, I'll do neither. The truth is, this is one of the rare "self-help" books I've picked up so I have no idea how it measures up to as far as the life-lessons go. (This is something everyone says, isn't it? Oh well. I'm too lazy to delete the sentence, and anyways, it actually *is* the truth. That's probably another thing everyone who reads self-help books says. Oh well, times two.)
Whether it was in deed the first, or the twenty-second, book in this genre I'd graced with my attention, I don't think it would make a big difference as to my opinion of it. For one, because it was damned well written, cynical at times (but you know - the *good* sort of cynical), unapologetic (for the most part), utterly engaging and well, fun. It was also a bit depressing at times in the later chapters, which is I guess why it gets a 4 instead of a 5-star rating. Though, I may need to reconsider this seeing that I've given The Bell Jar a 5-star rating, and I doubt anything can get more depressing that Plath.
Another thing is, I'm not sure how this holds up as a real, serious sort of manual for how to overcome everything listed in the subtitle - and I'm also not sure whether the author even wanted to accomplish this. What I got from it was a kind of tongue-in-cheek list of all those truths that should probably be self-evident, but aren't, and it was amusing to read about them put forth in such a humorous manner (for the most part, except the few depressing chapters that, given the topics they dealt with, I guess couldn't have been LOL-worthy to begin with).
So all in all, I'd say this is definitely worth the read, but whether or not I've gained some incredible, life-altering insight from it, no. I wasn't looking for any, and am consequently not disappointed, but I guess, for people reading these reviews who really want to find a how-to for any of the issues mentioned, I'm not sure This is How is the book for them....more